Posts Tagged ‘Lee Ann Womack’
Sunday, January 31st, 2010
Even in Grammy’s darkest hours, CU brings its picking powers!
- Superhero television show about our blog from the 50′s.
We won’t be live-blogging this time around, but will be reacting to the show in a full post tomorrow, and welcome your reactions in comments on this post. The awards telecast starts at 8 pm Eastern, and I imagine there will be some red carpet action in the hour prior.
Record of the Year
- Beyonce, “Halo” – Kevin
- Black Eyed Peas, “I Gotta Feeling”
- Kings of Leon, “Use Somebody” - Tara
- Lady GaGa, “Poker Face” - Dan
- Taylor Swift, “You Belong with Me”
- Beyonce, “Halo”
- Black Eyed Peas, “I Gotta Feeling”
- Kings of Leon, “Use Somebody” – Kevin, Dan, Tara
- Lady GaGa, “Poker Face”
- Taylor Swift, “You Belong with Me”
Kevin: Am I wrong for preferring Eric Cartman’s rendition of “Poker Face” over the original? This is a pretty lightweight slate of contenders. I really like “Halo”, but I suspect Kings of Leon will win, simply because it’s the only rock song in a lineup of pop hits.
Dan: “Poker Face” just feels very representative of popular music in 2009. I wouldn’t whine if it got passed over so that “Bad Romance” could take this award next year, though.
Tara: I would’ve pulled for “Single Ladies” in a heartbeat had it been submitted, but “Use Somebody” is just as deserving of this award. It’s a fantastic song even outside the context of its moment in pop culture, and it’s the kind of larger-than-life song that the voters have picked to win in the past.
Album of the Year
- Beyonce, I Am…Sasha Fierce
- Black Eyed Peas, The E.N.D.
- Lady GaGa, The Fame – Kevin, Tara
- Dave Matthews Band, Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King
- Taylor Swift, Fearless - Dan
- Beyonce, I Am…Sasha Fierce
- Black Eyed Peas, The E.N.D.
- Lady GaGa, The Fame
- Dave Matthews Band, Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King - Kevin
- Taylor Swift, Fearless - Dan, Tara
Kevin: I’d like to see dance music get some respect in the big category, even if there are a half-dozen Madonna albums at this point that would’ve been worthier winners than The Fame. Again, I think the Top 40 votes are going to be split, leaving Dave Matthews Band the winners.
Dan: In little over a year, Fearless has grown from success story to cultural artifact. It’s that rare pop album that seems to have a personality all its own, like Jagged Little Pill in a yellow sundress (and sung about as well). I could see anyone but the Peas taking this, but I think Swift’s support in both Nashville and the Top 40 crowd will take her to the top.
Tara: I have to say I was fairly shocked to see Swift’s truckload of Grammy nominations, so I’m having a little trouble wrapping my mind around the Academy’s thought process – but, I suppose a Swift win in this category is inevitable. However, I fully back Lady GaGa, who is the perfect storm of creativity, vision, swagger and raw vocal talent (remember that, pop world?). (more…)
Tags: Alison Brown, Asleep at the Wheel, Billy Currington, Bob Dylan, Bobby Braddock, Brad Paisley, Brooks & Dunn, Bryan Sutton, Carrie Underwood, Dierks Bentley, George Strait, Jamey Johnson, Jim Lauderdale, Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum, Lee Ann Womack, Levon Helm, Liz Rose, Lucinda Williams, Mac McAnally, Martina McBride, Michael Martin Murphy, Miranda Lambert, Patty Griffin, Randy Travis, Rascal Flatts, Rhonda Vincent, Rosanne Cash, Sarah Jarosz, Steve Martin, Steve Wariner, Sugarland, Taylor Swift, The Greencards, Trace Adkins, Wilco, Willie Nelson, Zac Brown Band
Thursday, January 28th, 2010
Since this was a solo blog, doing a Grammy Wish List has been an annual tradition. I’m not too excited about this year’s Grammys, to be honest. 2009 was a weak year in my opinion, and the shortened 11-month eligibility period didn’t help matters. But a tradition is a tradition, so here are my picks in the eleven categories that I care about this year:
* denotes my personal wish:
Record of the Year
- Beyoncé, “Halo” *
- The Black Eyed Peas, “I Gotta Feeling”
- Kings of Leon, “Use Somebody”
- Lady Gaga, “Poker Face”
- Taylor Swift, “You Belong With Me”
It’s always nice to see a country radio hit in there, but I honestly can’t stand “You Belong With Me.” I dig the Kings of Leon song, but the record that I enjoy the most here is “Halo.” Some pundits have suggested that Beyoncé threw her chances at this trophy by submitting “Halo” instead of “Single Ladies”, but I like that song even less than “You Belong With Me.” Love “Halo”, though.
Song of the Year
- Lady Gaga & RedOne, “Poker Face”
- Hod David & Musze, “Pretty Wings”
- Thaddis Harrell, Beyoncé Knowles, Terius Nash & Christopher Stewart, “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)”
- Caleb Followill, Jared Followill, Matthew Followill & Nathan Followill, “Use Somebody” *
- Liz Rose & Taylor Swift, “You Belong With Me”
Great to see Liz Rose in there, too, but I still can’t stand the song. I think “Use Somebody” is a great composition that could easily be a hit in other formats if the right artist covered it. Are you listening, Sugarland?
Best New Artist
- Zac Brown Band *
- Keri Hilson
- Silversun Pickups
- The Ting Tings
Zac Brown Band don’t quite live up to the hype, but they come a lot closer than last year’s nominee, Lady Antebellum.
Best Country Album
- Zac Brown Band, The Foundation
- George Strait, Twang *
- Taylor Swift, Fearless
- Keith Urban, Defying Gravity
- Lee Ann Womack, Call Me Crazy
There isn’t an album here that is built for more than cherry-picking. Strait’s set has the most cherries.
Best Female Country Vocal Performance
- Miranda Lambert, “Dead Flowers”
- Martina McBride, “I Just Call You Mine”
- Taylor Swift, “White Horse”
- Carrie Underwood, “Just a Dream” *
- Lee Ann Womack, “Solitary Thinkin’”
The only women who brought their A-game to this category are Swift and Underwood. “White Horse” might be the better song, but Underwood’s is the better vocal performance by a country mile.
Best Male Country Vocal Performance
- Trace Adkins, “All I Ask For Anymore”
- Billy Currington, “People Are Crazy”
- Jamey Johnson, “High Cost of Living”
- George Strait, “Living For the Night” *
- Keith Urban, “Sweet Thing”
I love the Strait song, so it’s my pick, but this is one of the only strong categories this year and I wouldn’t mind seeing any of these five win.
Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals
- Brooks & Dunn, “Cowgirls Don’t Cry”
- Zac Brown Band, “Chicken Fried”
- Lady Antebellum, “I Run to You”
- Rascal Flatts, “Here Comes Goodbye”
- Sugarland, “It Happens” *
No A-game here, but Sugarland’s B-game is better than the rest.
Best Country Vocal Collaboration
- Dierks Bentley & Patty Griffin, “Beautiful World”
- Kenny Chesney & Mac McAnally, “Down the Road”
- Brad Paisley & Keith Urban, “Start a Band”
- Carrie Underwood & Randy Travis, “I Told You So” *
- Lee Ann Womack & George Strait, “Everything But Quits”
Some amazing pairings here, but Underwood and Travis are the only ones with the material to match the talent.
Best Female Pop Vocal Performance
- Adele, “Hometown Glory”
- Beyoncé, “Halo”
- Katy Perry, “Hot N Cold”
- Pink, “Sober” *
- Taylor Swift, “You Belong With Me”
Pink is an awesome songwriter, and easily the most substantial female pop star to come along in the last decade. “Sober” is one of her best.
Best Pop Vocal Album
- The Black Eyed Peas, The End
- Colbie Caillat, The Breakthrough
- Kelly Clarkson, All I Ever Wanted
- The Fray, The Fray
- Pink, Funhouse *
It’s not quite as good as I’m Not Dead, but it comes close.
Best Dance Recording
- The Black Eyed Peas, “Boom Boom Pow”
- David Guetta and Kelly Rowland, “When Love Takes Over”
- Lady Gaga, “Poker Face”
- Madonna, “Celebration” *
- Britney Spears, “Womanizer”
Even her throwaway singles are built to last.
Tags: Billy Currington, Brad Paisley, Brooks & Dunn, Carrie Underwood, Dierks Bentley, George Strait, Jamey Johnson, Keith Urban, Kenny Chesney, Lady Antebellum, Lee Ann Womack, Liz Rose, Mac McAnally, Martina McBride, Miranda Lambert, Patty Griffin, Randy Travis, Rascal Flatts, Sugarland, Taylor Swift, Trace Adkins, Willie Nelson, Zac Brown Band
Wednesday, January 6th, 2010
Taylor Swift, “You Belong with Me”
Teen-pop perfection, bursting with personality and unshakable hooks. – Dan Milliken
Keith Urban, “‘Til Summer Comes Around”
There’s nothing quite as lonely as a carnival that has shut down, except for being alone at a carnival, surrounded by everyone but the love who has left you behind. – Kevin Coyne
Lady Antebellum, “I Run to You”
Sheer passion and pulsing energy from start to finish. – Tara Seetharam (more…)
Category Single Reviews
Tags: Alan Jackson, Asleep at the Wheel, Brad Paisley, Carrie Underwood, Chris Young, Dolly Parton, Heidi Newfield, Jamey Johnson, John Conlee, Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum, Lee Ann Womack, Oh Alexis!, Patty Loveless, Randy Travis, Reba McEntire, Ryan Bingham, Sugarland, Taylor Swift, The Civil Wars, Willie Nelson, Zac Brown Band
Thursday, December 24th, 2009
Last year, I counted down my twenty-five favorite Christmas songs. This year, it’s time to do the same with my favorite country Christmas albums. Feel free to add your own favorites in the comment section.
SHeDaisy, Brand New Year
This is not a typical, conservative country Christmas album. SHeDaisy spices things up by not only including originals, but rearranges the classics to make an unpredictable, unique Christmas album that stands out from the pack.
Dolly Parton, Home for Christmas
This is an incredibly cheesy Christmas album. As only Dolly can do, however, it’s at least delightfully cheesy.
Charlie Daniels & Friends, Joy To the World: A Bluegrass Christmas
This album flew under the radar this year, but it’s a wonderful bluegrass album with a few famous friends. Daniels even steps aside to allow his guests to sing while only accompanying them. Jewel steps up with an impressively country vocal on “Blue Christmas” and Kathy Mattea offers a rollicking version of “Oh Come All Ye Faithful.”
John Denver and the Muppets, Christmas Together
I grew up with this album. On the strength of nostalgia, I’d put it at the top of this list, but for the sake of being reasonable, I’ll settle for this ranking. Who doesn’t love the Muppets, anyway?
John Cowan, Comfort and Joy
John Cowan’s Comfort and Joy is a new release, but its acoustic production and Cowan’s clear voice is instantly appealing. He interprets some classics, but also includes some worthy originals and lesser-known songs. The sprightly “Christmas Everyday”, the thoughtful “Little Match Girl” and the gospel “Good News” provide welcome depth to this Christmas project.
Mindy Smith, My Holiday
Mindy Smith adeptly covers well-known standards on her Christmas album, but her original inclusions are what really stand out here, particularly “Follow the Shepherd Home” and “I Know the Reason.” With guest appearances from Alison Krauss, Thad Cockrell and Emmylou Harris (not to mention Smith’s own beautiful voice), My Holiday is one of the most outstanding mixes of originality and tradition on this list.
Loretta Lynn, Best of Christmas…Twentieth Century Masters
This is a collection of Loretta Lynn Christmas songs. It’s my favorite traditional country Christmas album.
Emmylou Harris, Light of the Stable
If you enjoy Harris’ bluegrass album, Roses in the Snow, and her Live At the Ryman, you’ll likely enjoy this acoustic-based Christmas album as well. It has a live, relaxed feel to it. While it doesn’t necessarily sound big-budget, it is still a well-crafted Christmas album.
The Tractors, Have Yourself A Tractors Christmas
The Tractors are infamous for their cringe-worthy novelty song, “Baby Likes To Rock It”, but they made an excellent Christmas album nonetheless. Their blend of swing and shuffle makes for a crisp album that I love to hear every year. I enjoy the entire album with the exception of their Christmas twist on “Baby Likes to Rock It.”
Lee Ann Womack, A Season for Romance
Lee Ann Womack is successful in conveying a romantic vibe on this album that suggests just that. With her easy southern drawl, Womack knows her way around a gorgeous Christmas melody. Her fun side should not be ignored, however, as her version of “the Man with the Bag” is easily the superior track on the album.
Travis Tritt, A Travis Tritt Christmas: Loving Time of the Year
Tritt rocks on songs like “Winter Wonderland”, adds a bluesy twist to “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, waxes nostalgic on “Christmas in My Hometown” and reverently sings “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” Nevertheless, he keeps Christmas in perspective as he philosophizes on the title track and, possibly naively, proclaims it to be the “most loving time of the year.”: “I wish I could bottle up this feeling/Pass out a little everyday/’Cause all the scars of pain have started healing/And troubles of this world just fade away…”
Dwight Yoakam, Come on Christmas
Dwight’s signature quirky vocal style does not disappoint on this Christmas album. He does some standards and a few originals. His bluesy version of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” just may be the only version of that song that I like. Among the originals, the dysfunctional “Santa Can’t Stay” and the album’s sensual title track are the highlights of the project.
Gene Autry, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Other Christmas Classics
Like Bing Crosby, Gene Autry’s name is simply synonymous with Christmas music.
John Prine, A John Prine Christmas
Prine’s rough, unpolished voice does not try to navigate beloved classics that conjure up feelings of warmth and frivolity. Instead, he does what works best for him, which means writing songs that reveal insightful observations of real life. As a result, A John Prine Christmas is darker than a typical Christmas album.
Alan Jackson, Let It Be Christmas
While Alan Jackson’s first Honky Tonk Christmas album is great, this one was recorded to appease his mother who requested a more traditional-sounding record. This one is especially good when hosting guests with mixed music tastes. Backed by a big band and orchestra, Jackson’s smooth voice navigates these traditional tunes with ease. Jackson’s original composition, the title track, is superb enough to stand with the revered classics.
Martina McBride, White Christmas
Martina McBride made a safe Christmas album with all familiar songs, but she still managed to deliver an album that’s engaging and among the best of its kind. And as one might expect from McBride, she knocks “O Holy Night” out of the park.
Toby Keith, A Classic Christmas
Toby Keith shows his generosity at Christmas time by making two Christmas albums (one of religious classics and the other of secular classics) and packaging them together for one low price. As a skillful interpreter, he treats these classics with both reference and fun as appropriate, with “Little Drummer Boy” receiving the coolest laid back production that I’ve ever heard on it.
Lorrie Morgan, Merry Christmas from London
With the London Orchestra, Morgan is in fine voice and keeps up with the power accompaniment quite well. This is a beautiful, straightforward album that includes many classics and a sweeping version of “My Favorite Things.”
Randy Travis, An Old Time Christmas
This Christmas album is exactly what one would expect from Randy Travis. If you like Randy Travis music and you like Christmas music, this one doesn’t disappoint. Highlights include his version of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”, Meet Me Under The mistletoe” and “Old Time Christmas.”
Kathy Mattea, Joy for Christmas Day
Kathy’s warm, soothing voice is meant for Christmas songs. She sings some standards along with some awesome originals. The stand out tracks are the gorgeous “Straw Against The Chill” and the infectious “Unto Us A Child Is Born.”
Garth Brooks, Beyond the Season
Garth’s first and best Christmas album sounds a lot like Garth Brooks music of the early nineties. Even the classics get the Brooks treatment, including a soulful version of “Go Tell It On A Mountain.” The highlights include but aren’t limited to “The Friendly Beasts” (in which he enlists the help of some of his songwriting friends), “Unto You This Night” and Buck Owens’ “Santa Looked A Lot Like Daddy.”
George Strait, A Classic Christmas
Strait has as many Christmas albums as he has decades in the country music business. This album is far superior to the other two, however. While all of the songs are classics, he has recorded them with rootsy productions to match his warm vocals. Highlights include “Jingle Bells”, “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” and “Oh Christmas Tree.”
Clint Black, Christmas With You
This album consists of all original songs composed by Clint Black himself. Most of it contains Christmas through the eyes of children, including “Slow As Christmas”, “Milk and Cookies” and “The Coolest Pair.” It’s fresh, fun and joyous, just as Christmas should be.
Patty Loveless, Bluegrass And White Snow: A Mountain Christmas
As a follow up to Mountain Soul, Patty Loveless delivers a soulful bluegrass Christmas album that radiates Christmas warmth while injecting moments of festive frivolity as well. Appearances by Vince Gill, Emmylou Harris, Rebecca Lynn Howard and Jon Randall are not necessary to strengthen this already masterful Christmas album, but they certainly help the celebration in a special way. (For more on this album, read a review by guest contributor Stephen Fales.)
Pam Tillis, Just in Time for Christmas
Most of the time, I want to hear warmth on a Christmas album. As is the case with many of my favorites, I like to be able to imagine listening to Christmas music by a cozy fire (though I don’t have a fireplace) and a nice mug of hot chocolate. With Tillis’ album, my imagination does not have to stretch very far, because it commands such images with its tasteful, jazzy production and Tillis’ naturally pleasant voice. This is clearly a country Christmas album, but it also manages to blend country elements with other traditional components that result in a perfect hybrid of torch and twang.
Category Christmas, Favorite Albums
Tags: Alan Jackson, Charlie Daniels, Clint Black, Dwight Yoakam, Emmylou Harris, Garth Brooks, Gene Autry, George Strait, Jewel, John Cowan, John Denver and the Muppets, John Prine, Kathy Mattea, Lee Ann Womack, Loretta Lynn, Lorie Morgan, Martina McBride, Mindy Smith, Pam Tillis, Patty Loveless, Randy Travis, SHeDaisy, The Tractors, Toby Keith, Travis Tritt
Thursday, December 24th, 2009
“Not Ready to Make Nice”
It’s easy to label this as a transitory response of a song, whose quality is stamped by context and time, but to do so is to undermine its carefully crafted layers of universal emotion. Anger is only the outer coating of the song – beneath it lies a tender-to-the-touch complex of feelings: pain and disgust, confusion and resolve, stubbornness and defeat. “Not Ready to Make Nice” may always recall a certain unfortunate episode in country music history, but its theme – that sometimes there’s a price to pay for standing up for what you believe – is timeless. – Tara Seetharam
“Probably Wouldn’t Be this Way”
A striking portrait of grief that alternates between phases of desolation, disillusionment and gratitude. Rimes’ interpretation of the lyrics is chillingly precise. – TS (more…)
Category Decade in Review
Tags: Alan Jackson, Alison Krauss, Brad Paisley, Bruce Robison, Carrie Underwood, Darrell Scott, Dixie Chicks, Johnny Cash, Josh Turner, Keith Urban, LeAnn Rimes, Lee Ann Womack, Nine Inch Nails, Patty Loveless, Randy Travis, Rascal Flatts, Rosanne Cash, Sugarland, Tim McGraw
Wednesday, December 16th, 2009
The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Part 3: #160-#141
Lee Ann Womack
Womack’s second-best Aughts song about late-night temptations is still better than a lot of people’s first-best songs about anything. Even in avoiding her drunken ex’s advances, she sounds positively heartbroken, suggesting she’d gladly make the other decision if she didn’t know better. – Dan Milliken
“She’s Not Just a Pretty Face”
Her motivation for her music has always been escapism, but I love the personal touch she slips into this one. Her late mother is the one who she’s referring to when she sings “at night, she pumps gasoline.” – Kevin Coyne
Category Decade in Review
Tags: Alan Jackson, Alison Krauss, Big & Rich, Bobbie Cryner, Cowboy Troy, Darryl Worley, Dierks Bentley, Emmylou Harris, Heidi Newfield, James Taylor, Jo Dee Messina, Joe Nichols, Josh Turner, Kenny Chesney, Lee Ann Womack, Patty Loveless, Ralph Stanley, Rodney Crowell, Shania Twain, Sugarland, Todd Snider, Trace Adkins, Trisha Yearwood
Tuesday, December 15th, 2009
The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Part 2: #180-#161
It’s the pairing of aching nostalgia and all the power that comes with a Flatts country-pop ballad that makes this song so potent. – Tara Seetharam
“Takin’ Off This Pain”
Like a wide-eyed hybrid of Loretta Lynn and Jennifer Nettles, Shepherd burst onto the scene snapping her newly ring-free fingers at the clueless sap not treating her right. Next Decade, please take note: you’ve got a star in waiting. – Dan Milliken (more…)
Category Decade in Review
Tags: Ashton Shepherd, Billy Currington, Blake Shelton, Brad Paisley, Jamey Johnson, Keith Urban, Lee Ann Womack, Martina McBride, Pam Tillis, Rascal Flatts, Reba McEntire, Sara Evans, Sugarland, Terri Clark, Tracy Byrd, Willie Nelson
Wednesday, December 9th, 2009
The 100 Greatest Albums of the Decade, Part 9
Nickel Creek, This Side
With Alison Krauss still in the producer’s chair, This Side begins to drift away from the more pure bluegrass feel of Nickel Creek’s debut album. Containing deliciously funky grooves and even tighter musicianship among the trio, Nickel Creek further proves their inimitable creativity and talent on their sophomore project that ultimately secures their popularity among progressive bluegrass fans and perhaps a few unsuspecting traditionalists along the way as well. – Leeann Ward
Recommended Tracks: “Spit on A Stranger”, “I Should’ve Known Better”, “This Side”, “Sabra Girl”
Lee Ann Womack, There’s More Where That Came From
It wasn’t quite the radical return to traditional country music that the album cover and subsequent marketing implied, but There’s More Where That Came From had more going for it than twin fiddles and steel, anyway: the strongest collection of songs that Womack had ever assembled. For those who went beyond the album’s one hit and two subsequent singles, the treasures were bountiful, including a cover of “Just Someone I Used to Know” hidden at the end of the disc. – Kevin Coyne
Recommended Tracks: “One’s a Couple”, “I May Hate Myself in the Morning”, “The Last Time”, “Stubborn (Psalm 151)”
Bill Chambers, Sleeping With the Blues
Kasey Chambers’ father, Bill Chambers, shows that the talented apple doesn’t fall far from the proverbial tree. Chambers’ well worn gravel voice sounds as though he is personally all too familiar with the blues, which appropriately helps in service of the album’s general tone. Sleeping with the Blues is wonderfully produced with pure acoustic country instrumentation, which nicely supports this set of songs that contain straight up country music themes with a sly mix of wit and doom. – LW
Recommended Tracks: “I Drink”, “”Sleeping with the Blues”, “Big A** Garage Sale”, “Hold You in My Heart”
Caitlin Cary & Thad Cockrell, Begonias
George and Tammy, Loretta and Conway, Dolly and Porter, Caitlin and Thad. Heresy? Perhaps. However, when Begonias was released in 2005, duet albums seemed like a thing of the past in country music. Caitlin Cary and Thad Cockrell, once neighbors in North Carolina, succeed in questioning that perception with their harmonies, songwriting, and natural chemistry by producing a timeless folk-country album that reminds us that great duets are not something that only exist as part of country music history. – William Ward
Recommended Tracks: “Something Less than Something More”, “Second Option”, “Conversations About a Friend”, “Waiting on June”
Alison Krauss & Union Station, Lonely Runs Both Ways
But just what are the two ways that lonely runs? Through the leaver (“Goodbye Is All We Have”) and the left (“Wouldn’t Be So Bad”)? Through the lovestruck (“If I Didn’t Know Any Better”) and the loved (“Crazy As Me”)? Or just through haunting traditional bluegrass (everything the fellas sing lead on here) as well as haunting grass-pop (everything with Krauss)? I say all of the above – and if Krauss and company are the ones running lonely around, I’ll follow them whichever way they decide to take it. – Dan Milliken
Recommended Tracks: “Restless”, “Crazy As Me”, “If I Didn’t Know Any Better”, “A Living Prayer”
The Be Good Tanyas, Blue Horse
It is true that The Be Good Tanyas are in the periphery of country music’s big tent, but their mellow sound is refreshingly organic. Their unconventional vocal style, delightful harmonies and accessible melodic hooks make this album a joy to hear. Particularly interesting is their meandering interpretation of “Oh Suzanna.” – LW
Recommended Tracks: “The Littlest Birds”, “Dog Song aka. Sleep Dog Lullaby”, “Oh Suzanna”, “Light Enough to Travel”
Dwight Yoakam, Blame the Vain
Fully self-producing for the first time, Yoakam returned to what he’s always does best: smart, simple heartbreak songs with no-frills production and minimal BS. Except on “She’ll Remember,” where the frills and BS are badly British-accented, bizarrely futuristic and fully awesome. He’s the kind of artist so consistent that it’s easy to take him for granted, but here he tried to one-up himself and damn near succeeded. – DM
Recommended Tracks: “Blame The Vain”, “Just Passin’ Time”, “She’ll Remember”, “The Last Heart In Line”
Shania Twain, Up!
As distinctive and boundary-pushing as they were, Shania Twain’s first two mega-albums were a bit restrained, as if there was a “let’s not push this too far” voice in the back of her head. With Up!, she fully lets loose her creativity, spinning the same nineteen tracks in three different styles over three discs, with the American release featuring the country and pop editions. Rather than split the difference to please both audiences, she shamelessly panders to each one instead, stacking on the fiddle and steel more so than she ever did before on one disc, while venturing into pure Europop on the other. The winner in all of this is the listener, particularly the one who has a taste for both banjo and synthesizer, as Twain’s relentless zest for lyrical escapism finally has the music to match her infectious positivity. – KC
Recommended Tracks: “Nah!”, “Ka-Ching!”, “What a Way to Wanna Be!”, “I Ain’t Goin’ Down”
Dixie Chicks, Taking the Long Way
Somewhere between the Bush slam heard around the world and the five-Grammy victory seen around the world came this masterful, refreshingly real album, defined only by its own merits. A raw slice of the album deals with the incident that changed the Chicks’ career – and quite possibly the course of mainstream country music – reflecting a tenacity that’s wrapped in still-tender pain. But the same multi-faceted assuredness rings throughout the rest of Taking The Long Way, found in songs that dive deep, lyrically and sonically, into stories of struggle and doubt. With its bone-chilling depictions of life’s realities, the Chicks’ first fully-written album is a piece of art that pays a brilliant, ironic tribute to the heart of country music. – Tara Seetharam
Recommended Tracks: “Not Ready to Make Nice”, “Silent House”, “I Hope”, “So Hard”
Nickel Creek, Why Should the Fire Die?
While they have been nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album and won IMBA award for Instrumental Group of the Year, Nickel Creek have always insisted that they are not a bluegrass band. With Why Should the Fire Die?, Nickel Creek makes its strongest argument, taking on new producers, introducing more rock and pop influence, and generally going in their own direction. Still, and perhaps most importantly, they have maintained their ability to avoid all things formulaic while pushing beyond the boundaries of youthful talent. – WW
Recommended Tracks: “When in Rome”, “Can’t Complain”, “Anthony”, “Doubting Thomas”
- – -
Category Decade in Review
Tags: Alison Krauss, Alison Krauss & Union Station, Bill Chambers, Caitlyn Cary, Dixie Chicks, Dwight Yoakam, Kasey Chambers, Lee Ann Womack, Nickel Creek, Shania Twain, Thad Cockrell, The Be Good Tanyas
Saturday, December 5th, 2009
The 100 Greatest Albums of the Decade, Part 6
Kathy Mattea, Right Out of Nowhere
Kathy Mattea has rarely sounded more open and warm than on this set of innovative folk-tinged songs. Topics of peace, love, resignation and heartache are sensitively explored in songs both written by Mattea and other well-known names, including captivating interpretations of The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Me Shelter” and Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Down on the Corner.” It’s a rich album with a decisively vibrant feel. – Leeann Ward
Recommended Tracks: “Gimme Shelter”, “Down on the Corner”, “Give It Away”
Johnny Cash, American IV: The Man Comes Around
American IV: The Man Comes Around was the last Cash album released in his lifetime; the bulk of its tracks are covers performed by the then ailing singer. Amazingly enough, the album seems almost biographical despite the limited material written by Cash. Still, American IV is not limited to “Hurt” (written by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails), as other well-interpreted covers and Cash’s own “The Man Comes Around” help cement the depth of the album. – William Ward
Recommended Tracks: “The Man Comes Around”, “Hurt”, “Sam Hall”
Jamey Johnson, That Lonesome Song
The media hype machine had a field day with Johnson’s breakthrough sophomore album, showering it with the kind of superlatives usually reserved for miracle cures and immaculate conceptions (see also: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend). Most of the attention went to the album’s counterculturism within the increasingly safe and watered-down Music Row, with numerous nods to its Outlaw aesthetic and “cocaine and a whore” business. But That Lonesome Song‘s greatness was always more than contextual, and certainly more than attitudinal; this is an album with a genuine story to tell, filled with a slow-burning sorrow that pervades every track and doesn’t rest until the wife finally walks away and the husband resigns himself to playing seedy bars and trying to convince you he’s worthy of comparison to the greats. – Dan Milliken
Recommended Tracks: “High Cost Of Living”, “Angel”, “Dreaming My Dreams With You”
*Credit for linked parody cover: Farce the Music.
Faith Hill, Fireflies
For all of the attention given to her power ballads and catchy pop numbers, Faith Hill has always included more offbeat material from lesser known songwriters. This album had some great power ballads and catchy pop numbers, but its heart and soul comes from the trio of Lori McKenna songs that make up its core. “Stealing Kisses” just might be Hill’s finest moment to date, and the other two McKenna songs – “If You Ask” and the title track – are nearly as good. – Kevin Coyne
Recommended Tracks: “Dearly Beloved”, “Stealing Kisses”, “Wish For You”
Vince Gill, Next Big Thing
Gill dips into a wider range of styles and subjects on his first self-produced album, but it all seems to thoughtfully tie back to his classically sweet sound – a tricky thing to do in country music. Next Big Thing is mature, clever and vocally spot-on, and features some killer guest vocals from Emmylou Harris, Lee Ann Womack and others. – TS
Recommended Tracks: “Without You”, “Two Hearts”, “These Broken Hearts”
Carrie Underwood, Play On
Easily one of the most versatile artists in country music, Underwood is capable of tackling almost any musical style, and she makes a solid case for this on her third album. The kicker, though, is that rather than signaling a lack of identity, each style feels like a natural extension of herself as an artist. She’s mournful on a haunting country standard in one breath, and commanding on a rock-charged up-tempo in the next – all without compromising her authenticity. Most significantly, Underwood finally digs a little deeper on Play On, marrying her extraordinary vocal proficiency with a higher level of tangible, sincere conviction than ever before. – TS
Recommended Tracks: “Someday When I Stop Loving You”, “Songs Like This”, “What Can I Say”
Rodney Crowell, The Outsider
Crowell’s take on mid-decade politics avoids heavy-handedness, perhaps because what he’s appealing to is not so much partisanship as patriotism in its purest form: “Democracy won’t work if we’re asleep. That kind of freedom is a vigil you must keep.” Bonus points for not one, but two guest turns from Emmylou Harris, the highlight being their stunning duet of Bob Dylan’s “Shelter From the Storm.” – KC
Recommended Tracks: “Dancin’ Circles ‘Round the Sun (Epictetus Speaks)”, “Don’t Get Me Started”, “Shelter From the Storm”
The Little Willies, The Little Willies
Norah Jones pet country side project with four of her New York City friends, including former boyfriend bassist Lee Alexander, results inn an inextricably fun album named after Willie Nelson who is covered twice on the project (“Gotta Get Drunk” and “Night Life”). The productions, including jaunty piano and prominent bass, along with Jones’ atypically loose vocals, make this disc a thrilling listening experience. While The Little Willie’s self titled album is not tight in technical terms, the album is all the better for it. – LW
Recommended Tracks: “Roll On”, “Gotta Get Drunk”, “Tennessee Stud”
Trisha Yearwood, Real Live Woman
Upon its release, the artist declared that she’d finally made her dream album. It’s easy to understand why, as Real Live Woman is Trisha Yearwood’s most cohesive album to date. It has a warmth and depth that makes it more than just reminiscent of Linda Ronstadt’s classic L.A. country albums from the mid-seventies. It’s actually on par with them. – KC
Recommended Tracks: “Where Are You Now”, “Try Me Again”, “When a Love Song Sings the Blues”
Kris Kristofferson, Broken Freedom Song: Live From San Francisco
For each unequivocal success like At Folsom Prison and Nirvana Unplugged, there are a dozen uninspired live albums that simply exist to capitalize on old material. Kris Kristofferson’s Broken Freedom Songs, with his extended introductions and banter, is an unequivocal success. Along with its friendly and almost conversational tone, Broken Freedom Songs focuses on unexpected compositions and makes a nice addition to other historically strong live albums. – WW
Recommended Tracks: “The Circle”, “Here Comes that Rainbow Again”, “Moment of Forever”
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Category Decade in Review
Tags: Carrie Underwood, Emmylou Harris, Faith Hill, Jamey Johnson, Johnny Cash, Kathy Mattea, Kris Kristofferson, Lee Ann Womack, Linda Ronstadt, Norah Jones, Rodney Crowell, The Little Willies, Trisha Yearwood, Vince Gill, Willie Nelson
Thursday, December 3rd, 2009
The 100 Greatest Albums of the Decade, Part 4
Pam Tillis, It’s All Relative: Tillis Sings Tillis
By the time she released a tribute to her father Mel, she’d become something of a legend in her own right. So it’s no surprise that she approached Mel’s stellar songwriting catalog as if she was recording any other studio album, taking the best of the bunch and making them her own. Bonus points for preserving the original fiddle breakdown from “Heart Over Mind” while making that classic shuffle a forlorn ballad, and a few more for hitting the archives of the Country Music Hall of Fame until she found a forgotten gem that should’ve been a hit back in the day (“Not Like it Was With You.”) – Kevin Coyne
Recommended Tracks: “Mental Revenge”, “Detroit City”
Dwight Yoakam, dwightyoakamacoustic.net
Yoakam takes a new, inspired spin on the greatest hits album concept, presenting us with a hearty sampling (over 20 songs) of his catalog served acoustic style. It simply works for the country legend. He introduces some delightful new twists and turns to his old classics, and as it should go with acoustic music, the album is driven by unadulterated, raw vocals, coupled with honest storytelling – the purest form of country music. – Tara Seetharam
Recommended Tracks: “A Thousand Miles From Nowhere”, “Things Change”
Gillian Welch, Time (The Revelator)
Time (The Revelator) is Gillian Welch and David Rawlings with much of their typical production stripped away. Accompanied by acoustic guitar and banjo, Gillian sings with emotions as much as she sings notes that create a surprisingly full sound. – William Ward
Recommended Tracks: “I Want to Sing That Rock and Roll”, “Red Clay Halo”
Reba McEntire, Reba Duets
That McEntire is able to smoothly and effortlessly wrap her voice around eleven other distinctive voices is a tribute to her sheer talent as an artist. With duet partners stretching from Justin Timberlake to Ronnie Dunn, McEntire presents a stunning, layered mix of sounds and styles, demonstrating that when gifted artists come together, no perceived boundaries can stop them from making good music. – TS
Recommended Tracks: “The Only Promise That Remains”, “When You Love Someone Like That”
Lee Ann Womack, Call Me Crazy
Very few country artists can express pain more poignantly than Womack, who taps into a place of tender desperation with her highly-acclaimed 2008 album. The stories are deep and reflective, the sorrow palpable, and the production adeptly sparse – a potent combination. – TS
Recommended Tracks: “Solitary Thinkin’”, “Either Way”
Nickel Creek, Nickel Creek
Nickel Creek has been nominated for Best Bluegrass Album and Best Country Instrumental Performance Grammys and won Best Contemporary Folk Album, yet the group does not easily fit into any of those categories. Produced by Alison Krauss, Nickel Creek’s self-titled album is their most bluegrass-influenced album. – WW
Recommended Tracks: “The Fox”, “The Hand Song”
Sara Watkins, Sara Watkins
Sara Watkins’ self-titled debut holds more than a few surprises, including more country influence than you will hear from any of her former Nickel Creek bandmates’ solo work. Produced by John Paul Jones, pedal steel is prominent on Jimmie Rodgers’ “Any Old Time,” performed as western swing, “All this Time,” and Tom Waits’ “Pony.” – WW
Recommended Tracks: “All This Time”, “Give Me Jesus”
Dierks Bentley, Modern Day Drifter
Rife with accessible melodies, solid lyrics and a penchant for traditional sounds, Dierks Bentley’s sophomore project, Modern Day Drifter, confirmed the promise that was only hinted at on his first album. The title of the album rightly suggests that Bentley will explore the components of breaking the chains of domesticity, which include the freedom (“Lotta Leavin’ Left to Do”, “Modern Day Drifter”, “Domestic Light and Cold”, “the Cab of My Truck”) and the ultimate consequences (“Settle for a Slowdown”, “Down on Easy Street”). Nevertheless, Bentley does not stop with those themes. He also finds room for common themes as love and loss, as demonstrated in the pretty “Good Things Happen”, the smoldering “Come A Little Closer” and heartbreaking “Gonna Get There Someday.” – Leeann Ward
Todd Snider, The Devil You Know
An explosion of righteous anger over poverty with an undercurrent of joyous celebration of America’s underclass. You can never tell for sure if he sees himself as their advocate or their peer, but the songs are so powerful, it doesn’t really matter. – KC
Recommended Tracks: “Just Like Old Times”, “The Devil You Know”
Rodney Crowell, The Houston Kid
After a string of somewhat underwhelming major-label releases in the 90′s, Rodney Crowell rebounded in a big way with this remarkably deep set on celebrated indie label Sugar Hill. Childhood joys and adult insights stand side-by-side in The Houston Kid, producing an emotionally rich and complicated survey of the album’s world. Such is the detail and soul of Crowell’s writing that every second comes across as autobiographical, even the ones that probably aren’t. – Dan Milliken
Recommended Tracks: “The Rock Of My Soul”, “I Walk The Line (Revisited)”
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Category Decade in Review
Tags: Alison Krauss, Dierks Bentley, Dwight Yoakam, Gillian Welch, Jimmie Rodgers, Lee Ann Womack, Mel Tillis, Nickel Creek, Pam Tillis, Reba McEntire, Rodney Crowell, Sara Watkins, Todd Snider